As a writer, there are certain things you have to do every single day of your life to increase your writing skills and abilities, as well as optimize your chances of finding full-time employment doing what you enjoy. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fun, but most people learn more after getting serious with their writing rather than during high school or college. Maybe, you feel that you are nowhere near where you want to be, or where you know you can be in the future, but with hard work, dedication and perseverance (and several cups of coffee) you can go even further in your career.
1. Read Quality Writing
The Internet is full of absolutely atrocious writing. Avoid that at all costs, unless you just want to feel better about your own writing abilities. But if you take a deeper look, you’ll find an absolute treasure trove of incredible, hard-hitting pieces of writing that beautifully encapsulate everything the writer intended to convey in his message to the world. Using apps like Flipboard, you can curate high-quality articles, short stories, op-ed pieces, and more that will keep you invested to the very last word. And, of course, you can still find a ton of beautifully-written books at your local library. You know, that place that just started offering free WiFi?
2. Read for Fun
I know I just dumped on low-brow, fluffy Internet writing, but it can serve a purpose, if utilized correctly. Like I said, don’t look at this type of sites (I won’t give any examples here) for advice on how to improve your writing skills. But there’s nothing wrong with enjoying an easy read to relax at the end of a long day. But reading for fun doesn’t always have to mean reading trashy magazines or tabloids. Pick up a suspenseful thriller or a young adult dystopian novel (there are plenty of them). Reading doesn’t have to be a chore if you don’t think of it as one.
3. Read Something New
Some of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read were way outside of my normal reading wheelhouse. There have been times that I’ve scrolled through the entire updated list of articles without a single headline popping out at me, but instead of closing the app out and opening up Facebook and Instagram for the hundredth time that day, I forced myself to pick one, regardless of whether or not I thought it’d pique my interest. Come to find out, pretty much anything can be interesting, if it’s well written. Reading such a wide variety of articles can easily make writers more worldly and well-rounded individuals, whilst also exposing them to many different styles of writing, and teaching them that it’s not so much the topic, but how the writer discusses it, that makes a piece interesting.
4. Read Your Past Writing
I can almost hear your sighs through the computer. Nobody wants to go back to when they were a beginner at anything and watch themselves fumble around like a baby attempting to take his first steps. But if you change your mindset when looking back, doing so can lead to vast improvements, regardless of what skill you’re working on. The best part about looking back at your past writing is you can still change it. It’s not like a football player watching film of his performance during last week’s game; that’s over and done with. Even if your writing is published, you can still change it for yourself on your computer or in your notebook. You can take parts out, add something new, or highlight a passage that truly got to the essence of what you were writing about. And, best of all, you can take a step back and realize just how much better you’ve gotten since those original articles were published!
5. Read Your Critics' Comments
If you’re going to be putting your thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see, you’re going to have to deal with criticism constantly. There’s no avoiding it; but you can change your mindset regarding how you take your critics’ comments. The Internet is full of “people” (read: YouTube commenters) that will spout just about anything that comes to mind without the slightest bit of concern for who they hurt. Disregard these comments, because they’re most likely just trolls looking for attention. Even so, you’ll have well-written and thoughtful critics who disagree with you and think your writing is trash. Don’t blow them off; they’re doing you a favor. Swallow your pride and find out what they disagreed with, or why they thought your piece was unreadable. By listening to the intelligent critics of your work, you’ll find areas that you need to improve in that you didn’t know existed. Once you change your mindset about getting negative comments on your work, you’ll actually be grateful for those who take the time to point out your flaws rather than being offended by them.
6. Write Something Daily
When I started taking my writing “career” a bit more seriously, I came across a piece of advice that said you should write at least 1,000 words every day. At the beginning, this sounds as a very intimidating number. Let’s be honest here, there will be days where you are going to skip this exercise, or at least don’t reach that four-digit quota, but for the most part try to keep on track. So, within months, you are going to be writing 2-3,000 words before lunchtime. You are going to get so deep into writing that it won’t feel normal to not be writing.
Of course, you have to keep it interesting, for your audience, as well as yourself. Write for a variety of purposes, on different topics, using different media. Start a blog. Keep a personal journal. Take volunteer gigs (but not for long). Focus on the writing, and the rest will come eventually.
7. Appreciate Every Interaction In Your Life
I imagine that most writers are pretty introverted, so human interaction may not be your strong suit (and I don’t blame you; I work from home, after all). But the more you pay attention to other people, the more you’ll be able to reach them through your writing. You should definitely reach out to other writers to get some tips, ideas, and constructive criticism; you’ll get some incredible advice from those willing to help you out. But also pay close attention to every small interaction you have or notice others having throughout your day. Every single person you meet has a story to tell. As a writer, you can be the one that tells someone else’s story to the world! The woman you held the door for at the supermarket before might have been at her wit’s end until your small gesture changed her day around; there’s a story there. The person who cut you off and gave you the finger could inspire a listicle titled “10 Reasons People are Jerks in Traffic.” The possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and what you choose to make out of the seemingly benign interactions you have with others on a daily basis.
8. Observe and Analyze Your Surroundings
Along with being more cognizant of your interactions with other people, as a writer you’ll want to pay more attention to everything around you. Pretend you’re writing your life story as it unfolds. Paint the entire picture by finding the most accurate words you can to describe your surroundings. Be mindful of background noises you hear, or the smell of the air on a crisp autumn day. Take the time to describe (in your head or on paper) the way your cat crossed the room: Did she gallop? Saunter? Skitter? Leap? Like I said before, great writers can make even the most ho-hum situation interesting by finding the right words to convey it to their readers.
9. Put Away Distractions
Writing is not a passive activity that can be done in conjunction with other passive activities. It requires your full-on attention no matter how talented you are. Turn the TV off; put your phone on vibrate and leave it in the other room; log out of Facebook and use the Internet only if you need to look something up. Make sure you’re up-to-date on any emails or phone calls you have to make, so that while you’re writing you’re able to focus on the task at hand. Remember: your work today brings you one step closer to actualizing your overall goals as a writer. Nothing posted on your Twitter feed is going to be so mind-bogglingly awesome that it’s worth interrupting you on your path to success.
10. Take Breaks
I said previously, you should try hitting that 1,000-word quota. However, life gets in the way sometimes. It happens. You might be uninspired one day, or need to just take a break from the computer screen. But you should never go a day without doing something that brings you closer to becoming a successful writer. Take a walk in the park, and brainstorm ideas for a story or blog post. Network with other writers who might have connections that could further your career. Ask your friends to read some of your previous work. Reflect on how far you’ve come as a writer, and create new goals for where you want to be in the near future. Then get back to your notebook or computer ready to hit the ground running.
See Also: Top 10 Websites to Find Freelance Work
Anyone can sit down and write something out and post it to the world. A lot of people do. These people aren’t writers. Being a writer isn’t just about writing; it’s about putting yourself in a certain mindset, and seeing the world through a specific lens every waking moment of your life.